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George Mason University
Tom O'Connor is currently in his 16th year at George Mason University and his fourth decade in NCAA Division I athletics. He was named the athletic director at George Mason on November 1, 1994, and he added the title of assistant vice president in 1999. O'Connor is widely regarded as an innovative, conscientious and visionary administrator whose bold leadership has advanced four Division I institutions.
His major priority is to facilitate the University's commitment to its student-athletes, both academically and athletically. He has helped create an administrative process committed to excellence in the areas of academic assistance, gender equity and compliance with NCAA rules and regulations.
George Mason recently was recognized for its efforts in the area of diversity as it was one of 10 schools nationally to earn the 2008 Diversity in Athletics Award in the category of African-American Graduation: Male Student-Athletes. The Award is presented on an annual basis by the Laboratory for Diversity in Sport at Texas A&M University, in collaboration with the NCAA.
Under O'Connor's guidance, George Mason was one of the nation's first 15 schools to complete the NCAA certification process, and it completed a second cycle of athletics certification in February 2003. He also spearheaded an effort by the University to come into full compliance with Title IX. As a result, George Mason perennially ranks among the nation's best in the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act survey.
In addition, George Mason athletic facilities have improved greatly during O'Connor's tenure. The Aquatic and Fitness Center, a first-class recreation and competition facility, opened on the Fairfax campus in 1998, while each campus athletics venue has received upgrades over the past decade. Most recently in 2009, the Patriots volleyball and wrestling teams began competition in a new facility, the Recreation Athletic Complex (RAC), with a 1,550 seat capacity.
At the NCAA level, O'Connor recently completed his five-year term on the 10-member NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship Committee and served as Chair for the 07-08 year. O'Connor is the first representative in Colonial Athletic Association's history to be appointed to the committee, which has control, direction and supervision of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship. He has held a seat on the prestigious Management Council and was a member of the Division I Strategic Planning Committee and the Selection Review Committee. He was involved with the NCAA restructuring process as a member of the business/ finance cabinet and served a term as a member of the NCAA Men's Basketball Rules Committee. He has been a member of the Executive Council of the NACDA Division I-AAA Athletic Directors Association. He completed a two-year term as the President of the Colonial Athletic Association on July 1, 2004.
A couple of the athletic programs have had tremendous seasons where they were in the national spotlight the past few years. The men's basketball team completed the best season in school history in 2005-06, making their first- ever trip to the NCAA Final Four and first by any Colonial Athletic Association school. Mason finished the season ranked eighth in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, the highest-ever ranking for Mason. The 2009 baseball team tied the school record for wins and winning percentage, matching the 1976 team which went to the NAIA World Series and also finished 42-14. Catcher Chris Henderson became the first Mason baseball player to receive first-team All-America honors as selected by Collegiate Baseball. Seniors Scott Krieger and Mike Modica earned All-America second team honors. The 2006 men's volleyball team, nationally ranked throughout the season, just missed making it to the top of their sport. The Patriots were unbeaten at home and senior Shaun Powell was selected a Division I-II First-Team All-American. He became the 10th Mason men's volleyball player to garner All-American honors and the first since Mike Mauro in 1994.
O'Connor previously served as athletic director at Loyola (MD) College (1976-86), at Santa Clara University (1986-92) and at St. Bonaventure University (1992-94). He was also the head basketball coach at Dartmouth College (1972-74) and at Loyola (1974-76), and his age of 25 when he became head coach at Dartmouth ranks him as the sixth-youngest head coach to ever take over a NCAA Division I program.
A native of Union City, NJ, the 63-year-old O'Connor earned a B.A. degree in 1968 from Assumption (Mass) College, where he was a four-year basketball letterwinner. He is a member of the Assumption College Athletic Hall of Fame and recently was honored as the recipient of the 2008 Father Louis Dion A.A. '35 Outstanding Achievement Award. He recently was selected as the recipient of the 2010 Gary Cunningham Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association (DI-AAA ADA) and was inducted into the 2007 class at the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame. He received the Pathfinder Award at the 2004 New England Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Other than the recent success of the men's basketball, baseball and volleyball teams at George Mason, the men's indoor track and field team won the 1996 national championship and the outdoor squad placed second. In the annual Sears Directors' Cup standings, the Patriots ranked first among DI-AAA (non-football) institutions in 1995 and 1997.
Under his leadership, Mason student-athletes have excelled in the classroom. Four Patriots have received National CoSIDA Academic All-America recognition; most recently men's soccer player Richard Edgar earned First- Team Academic All-American by CoSIDA/ESPN the Magazine in 2009. Chris Looze (2005) became the first Mason student-athlete to garner academic player of the year in baseball. Art Kulans won the honor two seasons for men's Volleyball, First Team (2003) and Second Team (2002). Keri Chaconas, who went on to play in the WNBA in the league's inaugural season, was a Third Team (1996) Academic All-American in 1996 in women's basketball. O'Connor's teams have reached regional and national heights at other institutions under his guidance. Loyola won the 1976 men's soccer national championship, while Santa Clara's 1989 men's soccer team was the co-national champion with Virginia and the 1991 squad was the national runner-up. The school also earned NCAA bids in men's and women's basketball, women's soccer and baseball.
Tom and his wife Barbara reside in Fairfax. The couple has four children and nine grandchildren.
THE O'CONNOR FILE
Honors and Awards
Athletics Professional Experience